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Health and Wellbeing

The Council has an Employee Health and Wellbeing Framework, which is regarded as applying to an employee physical and mental health both inside and outside of the workplace and is seen as a positive feeling of general physical, emotional and psychological wellness.

The Framework is supported by a number of policies and procedures that set out how employee health and wellbeing is perceived and managed by the council. These policies are reviewed at least every 5 years to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose and reflect the approach outlined in the Framework.

Role of Line Manager

You have a significant influence on the health and wellbeing of your staff.  Improving your softer skills will assist you in managing sickness absence as well as developing the health and wellbeing of your staff

Resilience - You can help your team by spotting and dealing with burn-out and rust-out (not enough work, boredom, no challenge etc.). It's up to you to enable your team to keep engaged whilst being busy and in control of their work.  Make your staff feel good about what they are doing; focus on individual strengths, delivering services and a joint sense of purpose.

Engagement & Communication

It is important to engage with your staff during times of change this will help to alleviate the worries of your team and support them. Communicating well will keep your staff in the know for better outcomes and help them deal with change.

Work Life Balance

Where your staffs are working consistently long hours and/or this is having a negative impact on their employment performance or wellbeing, you should take steps to establish why this is so and consider what might be done to address the issue.

Promoting Health at Work

In addition to the requirements set out in the council's Employee Engagement Framework, the services are responsible for communication with employees to publicise events/ opportunities and to provide specific health and wellbeing information as identified in the Healthy Working Lives steering groups.

Role of Line Manager

As a line manager you can have a significant influence on the health and wellbeing of your staff. Best practice and research shows that competent line managers can contribute positively to the experience of employees. Improving your softer skills will assist you in supporting staff attendance at work, developing the health and wellbeing of your employees and being seen to 'walk the talk'. Here are some useful pointers that you could be doing or working towards:

  • deal with staff who are ill in a fair, sensitive, consistent and confidential manner
  • keep accurate records of your team sickness absence using council policies and systems
  • analyse sickness absence data looking for trends or warning signs
  • lead by example by following policies correctly i.e. flexible working, taking breaks
  • escalate issues and source support for staff where appropriate in a timely manner
  • ensure your team know the council policies, behaviour and engagement expected of them
  • ensure your team know to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing
  • foster an open and inclusive culture in your team and workplace
  • don't put off difficult conversations
  • don't cancel meetings with your staff unless completely avoidable

As a manager, you will have potentially difficult or challenging conversations with staff from time to time. Act when this is needed, taking an honest, open approach and being consistent will ensure expectations are clear to all

Listen and Support

Supporting and empowering individual employees will strengthen the whole team. Try to set aside time to be available for your employees or if your own workload restricts this, allow for a minimum period of time during the week when you will be available and let your staff know. This reinforces that they are important because you have made them your priority. Often knowing this time is available if they need it can be enough to make your staff feel valued.

Manage the person, not their issue

Work with them to help them find a way forward, for example, what impact is this having? What could you do about it? What will you do about it? Keep an eye on your team's workload to ensure what they are expected to deliver is realistic within the timescales. Rather than taking problems off the employee, build up their resilience instead by empowering them to find the solution.

Resilience

Resilience is all about maintaining your own high performance and a positive sense of wellbeing, even when facing difficult times, high pressured workloads or misfortune. As a manager you can help your team become more resilient and bounce back from problems by helping them avoid the issues associated with rust-out (not enough work, boredom, no challenge) and burn-out (too much work, pressure, stress). Try to help your team as a whole to maintain a balance in between rust-out and burn-out to keep them engaged, in control of their workloads and foster their own sense of purpose.

You can use the strengths of your team by:

  • focusing on areas that are working well, develop clear team values and goals
  • developing the strengths of your staff alongside any weak points
  • fostering positivity, make your staff feel good when they are doing what they are good at to give them a sense of purpose
  • ensuring your team know where they can get support, and help them to maintain a good work-life balance by promoting health and wellbeing activities/information.
  • being flexible, adaptable and open to ideas and change
  • identifying and spotlight staff in your team who are strong in one of the following - problem solving / decision making / interpersonal skills / motivation - variety will make your team stronger.
Engagement & Communication

Engaging staff during a period of major change is a huge challenge for the Council. Research shows that rapid change may lead individuals to feel overwhelmed or left behind. This is especially true in the Council where many staff have worked there for many years. Concerns are also heightened when some changes are outside of the control of Council or may even result in the unit they work for being abolished. There are some actions that can be taken to mitigate the impact of change and seek to engage staff:

Communicate Well

Staff response to change will depend partly on how the changes are communicated. In some cases the Council may be facing an external change, over which they will have very little control e.g. change of elected members. In others, the Council itself has decided to take action such as service reconfiguration and in some cases there will be a mix of externally imposed and internally directed change. You as a manager, along with your HR team, can play a vital role through induction briefings with your staff to alleviate their worries and support them.

Maintain Staff Engagement

The pace and scale of change in the Council is increasing and may seem overwhelming to staff. Many staff will have seen proposals for change before and may be suffering from change fatigue and be sceptical of new proposals, but research suggest that organisations that involve and engage with staff early on generally find it can help deliver better outcomes. Listen to concerns, take on board feedback and communicate updates in a timely manner to keep your team on track. Reassure your staff that their concerns are being heard. It may be difficult in maintaining relationships where staff have opposed potential changes but you should seek to keep an open and frank dialogue around implementation of any changes where possible. You therefore need to engage your staff around change and try to convey any case for change in a way which seeks to take staff along with them. This means being consistent in your messages and communication, building organisation by acting with integrity and being open about any risks. Evidence from public service organisations is that maintaining a focus on service delivery during change is key to motivating staff. Despite the range of changes in the Council, your priority as a team will continue to be the provision of high quality services.

Work life balance

Employees with flexible working patterns are more engaged than others. High performing organisations give to people management and employ a range of policies to engage and empower their workforce, including work discretion and autonomy, high employee involvement and flexible working arrangements.

Currently the Council provides the following Family Friendly policies:

  • . All employees are currently entitled to a minimum of 28 annual leave including bank holidays.  The council however gives above this legal requirement and offers 31 days (including bank holidays) to employees with less than 5 years' service and 36 days (including bank holidays)
  • word icon Parental leave [29kb]. There is a right to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave for men and women at any time up to the child's fifth birthday. This must be taken in blocks or multiples of one week, with 21 days' notice given to the Council. 
  • . Various policies which go above the statutory minimum.
  • word icon Maternity Support Leave [34kb]. Fathers or partners or the nominated carer of an expectant mother, who do not meet the qualifications for Paternity Leave are entitled to Maternity Support Leave of five days at or around the time of birth.  The nominated carer is the person nominated by the mother to assist in the care of the child and to provide support to the mother at or around the time of birth.
  • word icon Time off for care of an ill dependant [35kb]. The Council provides a provision for employees to take up to 5 days paid leave (pro-rata) in a rolling 12 month period to deal with family emergencies (e.g. concerning an elderly parent, partner, child or other person living as part of the family). <link to ill dependant>
  • Serious Illness of a Dependant. Where an employee exhausts their entitlement to 15 working days Special Leave for the illness of a dependant, the Director has discretion to extend the unpaid leave period to a maximum of one year for the serious illness of a dependant
  • Leave for planned healthcare of a young child. The policy makes provision for up to five working days paid leave and five working days unpaid leave, in the first five years of a child's life, in order to accompany the child to: post-natal care clinic(s); and/or visit a medical practitioner for the purposes of preventative medicine (e.g. inoculations)
  • pdf icon Right to request flexible working [740kb]. Employees with children and those with caring responsibilities for adults including those with elderly or disabled relatives can request a change to their working arrangements, for example, in their hours, time or place of work. The Council can refuse such a request on specified business grounds but must follow a detailed procedure.
  • word icon ​Hospital and other medical appointments. [35kb] While employees are expected to arrange medical appointments in their own time, it is recognised that it is not always possible in the case of hospital appointments. Where employees are unable to make an appointment in their own time and have provided their line manager with evidence of the appointment the employee should be granted reasonable time off to attend the appointment inclusive of the time required to travel between appointment location and workplace.
  • Preventative Medical Examinations. An employee is entitled to 'reasonable' time off without loss of pay to attend preventative medical examinations subject to providing evidence of attendance. This will include the day of the appointment and where necessary, up to 1 day prior to an examination and/or following an examination to prepare for and/or recover subject to provision of medical evidence that time off was required. Any additional time off out with these provisions will be regarded as sickness absence. Preventative medical examinations might include necessary vaccinations, screening appointments etc.
  • word icon Bereavement Leave [35kb]. Where a dependant or a family member dies, the Director or nominated representative has discretion to grant paid leave for a maximum of five working days. 
  • word icon Additional Unpaid Leave [288kb]. Employees may wish to permanently increase their annual leave entitlement. Employees can request up to a maximum of an additional 6 weeks unpaid annual leave per year. The additional leave does not have to be taken as a block but must be taken within the leave year.
  • Flexible retirement. The policy applies to all council employees who are members of the Local Government Pension Scheme. Local Government Scheme members are able to draw their pension benefits while continuing in the council's employment subject to the following:
    • employees must apply for early payment in writing, be at least age 55 and have 2 years scheme membership or have brought in a transfer from another pension scheme;
    • employees must, with the council's consent, reduce either the hours they work or their grade; and
    • the council agrees to the early payment of pension benefits <link to flexible working policy>
Promoting Health

The Council's Employee Health & Wellbeing Framework is supported by a number of policies and procedures that set out how employee health and wellbeing is perceived and managed by the council. These policies are reviewed at least every 5 years to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose and reflect the approach outlined in the Framework. These policies fall into 3 key areas:

  • Health and Safety - The application of the council's Occupational Health and Safety Policy including risk assessments, safe working practices and the provision of training.
  • Supporting Attendance at Work - The application of the Supporting Attendance at Work Policy and Procedure including support from Human Resources and the council's Occupational Health provider.
  • Supporting Good Employee Health - The application of policies on equality in employment, organisational change, grievance, family care and flexible working.

Services will produce annual employee health and wellbeing action plans. These plans will review issues at service unit level to ensure a sufficient level of detail.

  • Actions at service level will be aligned to established health and safety arrangements and will be agreed by service management teams with co-ordination being provided through Healthy Working Lives representatives. Actions will include:
  • Review of sickness absence information on a monthly basis
  • Annual updating of a service profile that highlights key employee information
  • Production and delivery of annual service action plan in accordance with the service profile for proactively identifying areas of concern and delivering targeted training/ events and health awareness programmes
  • Working with the council's occupational health provider and the Health Improvement Team to develop programmes and events appropriate for services and their employees
  • Reviewing return to work interviews for employees who have been off sick to ensure managers are offering support and indicating where help and information can be found as appropriate

A list of the Council policies underpinning this strategy are:

  • West Lothian Council Occupational Health and Safety Policy
  • Supporting Attendance at Work
  • Substance Misuse
  • Tobacco
  • Personal Safety at Work
  • Policy on Equality in Employment & Service Provision
  • Managing Stress At Work
  • Family Care
  • Flexible Working Hours Scheme
  • Workforce Management
  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Expectant or New Mothers
  • Control of Infection at Work
  • Whistle Blowing
  • Grievance